Scranton Marijuana Dispensary Eyeing Grower License

April 12, 2018

SCRANTON — The first company to sell medical marijuana in Lackawanna County has plans to grow it and make medicine too. Columbia Care Pennsylvania plans to greet its first patients Monday at its dispensary in the Keyser Oak Center shopping plaza. The New York-based company with subsidiaries across the country grows marijuana for medicinal use in every state it operates, Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Vita said at a news conference Thursday at the new dispensary. The company is still exploring options, so officials would not say where they will build the growing operation. “We are looking at several locations, working with municipalities looking for the most impactful location,” Vita said. The state’s medical marijuana program opened phase 2 this month, allowing more growers, dispensaries and, for the first time, research institutions to seek licenses. State regulators cleared Columbia to open two more dispensaries, one in Wilkes-Barre and another in Blakeslee, which the company expects to open this year. “With the 11,000-plus patients that are already registered in the state of Pennsylvania, I think it’s clear that there is an unmet medical need that we hope to service,” Vita said at the news conference. “This first facility of ours in Pennsylvania opens the door for us and we expect to continue to expand into this market.” Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright said he sees Columbia Care and medical marijuana as another tool with which to tackle a growing drug addiction problem. “I think we’re all aware of the fact that we have an opioid crisis in this area,” he said. “And, I’m hoping that this is going to be an alternative for some of the people that need treatment.” As more dispensaries come online, demand is quickly outpacing what suppliers can deliver and dispensaries report running out of supply. Only two of the 12 licensed growers, including Standard Farms in White Haven, have started shipping capsules, oils and tinctures, according the state Department of Health. The other is Cresco Yeltrah in Jefferson County. Columbia uses scheduling to control supply and orders product in advance from growers/processors that meet its quality standards, Vita said. The company wants to offer a wide slate of options for patients, he said, and that includes tapping producers such as Standard Farms. “An experienced, multi-state operator can represent our product really well,” said Jonathan Goldrath, Standard’s chief financial officer. Goldrath applauded Columbia’s national footprint and proven business model in other states including Delaware, Massachusetts and California among others states. “We want to work with dispensaries who are able to represent our product in a certain way, but also deliver to the patients that need it in an appropriate manner,” he said. Contact the writer: joconnell@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9131; @jon_oc on Twitter